Polls show the death penalty is still popular among California voters, so it is unlikely Proposition 34 — which would end the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole — probably will fail.
I don’t feel sorry for anyone on Death Row, nor do I feel sorry for people doing life without parole. But I am particularly sorry about one fact: Throughout the United States, on occasion, it turns out the wrong person has been executed.
People seem to shrug that off, and I have to admit I don’t get emotionally worked up over it, as some others do.
But if we, the people, have somebody killed because we believe that person committed murder, and it turns out they got the wrong guy — then we, the people, in that case, take on a mantle of guilt. When it comes to the death penalty, our justice system is supposed to weed out all doubt. And in most cases, I believe it does. In those few cases where the wrong person has been executed, though, there is no way that wrong can be righted.
The death penalty seems to provide emotional closure to relatives of murder victims, and it does make sure the murderers are out of the way — if, in fact we convicted the right person.
The death penalty doesn’t seem to deter murder. In Texas, where the death penalty is carried out with far more regularity than in California, the murder rate is higher. In most countries where there is no death penalty, the murder rates also are lower than they are in California.
In California, criminals are executed only after an average of 25 years of appeal — and the 9th U.S. District Court seems determined to make that time longer.
I have a feeling Prop. 34 will fail, but at some future point, Californians will figure out the death penalty is doing them no good.